Consider the enormity of what happened in a relatively poor and obscure part of northeastern Germany on Sunday, September 4. In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, voters decided to show they were cross with one of their most famous daughters – Chancellor Angela Merkel. Mostly, because they weren’t sanguine about her decision to generously open Germany’s doors to Syria’s harried.
In the course of the election to choose a new state assembly, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania managed to stick it to Mrs Merkel, frighten all the other strands of the political spectrum with the unexpected support offered to the anti-immigrant far-right AfD – and make headlines around the world.
The reasons anyone outside Germany should care about Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania are as follows:
- it was the first of five regional elections before the general election expected in September 2017
- it may consequently foreshadow the 2017 election
- it was a paradox wrapped in an enigma. Voters fearful about refugees actually seemed a bit less right-wing than before. In an unexpected bit of good news, the ultra far-right National Democratic Party appeared to have lost its support –Mecklenburg was the only one of Germany’s 16 states where the NDP was represented in a state legislature. But in Sunday’s election, the ultra far-right seemed to have been swept away and voters switched to the far-right AfD
- it may represent the apex of AfD’s appeal. The party fell well short of its aim of becoming the strongest party in Mecklenburg and it got four percentage points less than the 24.3 per cent support it got in another eastern state (Saxony-Anhalt) barely six months ago
- it may illustrate that oddity: you protest most about that which you do not know. Mecklenburg has just 23,000 refugees – a mere 1.5 per cent of its population – and cannot possibly be suffering the consequences of Mrs Merkel’s generosity